NEA Jazz Masters live broadcast on WBGO

NEA artwork 2010

WBGO Jazz 88.3FM will broadcast the 2010 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Ceremony & Concert taking place on Tuesday, January 12 at 7:30PM in the Rose Theater at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center at Broadway at 60th Street.  The performance will feature the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis in a program dedicated to the 2010 honorees’ works.

Joining the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will be many of the honorees themselves including Muhal Richard Abrams, Bill Holman (as guest conductor), Annie Ross, and Cedar Walton. Also featured will be 2010 Jazz Master Kenny Barron on solo piano and 2010 Jazz Master Yusef Lateef with percussionist Adam Pudolph. George Avakian will receive the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Award for Jazz Advocacy.

Twenty-six fellow NEA Jazz Masters will be in the audience, including Toshiko Akiyoshi, Ornette Coleman, Paquito d’Rivera, Ramsey Lewis, and Dr. Billy Taylor.  The broadcast will be co-hosted by WBGO’s Gary Walker and Sirius/XM’s Mark Ruffin, and carried on both WBGO and Sirius/XM’s Real Jazz channel.

Sat nite @ NJPAC - Branford & Maria

NJPAC outdid itself, presenting the Branford Marsalis Quartet and Maria Schneider Orchestra on Saturday night. Branford is the classicist and Maria the colorist, and the third star is the concert hall, Prudential Hall. <!--more-->

Branford opened his set -- a sonata with two adagios -- with a Nets joke. "I like our chances now." He was on tenor on "Return of the Jitney Man" by the now departed drummer in the quartet, Jeff Tain Watts, and then soprano on pianist Joey Calderazzo's "The Blossom of Parting." He played alto on "Jabberwocky" ("quirky" in its anti-conventional harmony) and went back to soprano for "The Last Goodbye" by Joey ("a song for all occasions"). Over a heartbeat from Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums, Branford's last low soprano note found a sympathetic vibration in the room and created a profound moment. Set too short.

Because we didn't get the expected high-energy set closer, Maria may have had to win some in the audience over and she did, quickly. She opened with a flamenco-like piece, then "Choro Dancado" and "Evanescence," and then paired "Hang Gliding" (inspired by doing just that off the coast of Brazil) with a new composition ("commissioned through my website") about climbing to the top of a silo and looking down on the windswept Minnesota plains, with a spotlight on guitarist John Hart. Looking down from the First Tier, I could especially appreciate the rhythm section – Frank Kimbrough, Jay Anderson, Clarence Penn -- and how it drives and balances the wind power. I wish NJPAC would create a residency for the MSO.

More Champions of Jazz -- DownBeat Magazine

Frank Paquito

As WBGO celebrates 30 years, DownBeat celebrates 75. We honored publisher Frank Alkyer, musician Paquito D’Rivera (on this month’s cover), and Down Beat President Kevin Maher at the Champions of Jazz benefit concert on Nov 3. They responded with these words.

FROM FRANK ALKYER, PUBLISHER .. We are very proud to accept this award on behalf of the DownBeat family -- 75 years worth of great writers, editors, photographers, business managers, bookkeepers, receptionists and interns. All of them have played a role in<!--more--> DownBeat's longevity and success. We are also proud to accept this award on behalf of DownBeat readers in nearly 100 countries around the globe. They are what makes us tick.

Our 75th anniversary sent us all deep into the DownBeat archives this year. And we've been able to pull out some fantastic classic articles and photography. It's amazing to see who has written, edited and photographed for DownBeat over the years: John Hammond, Dave Dexter, Helen Oakley, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Leonard Feather, Ira Gitler, Marian McPartland, Rex Stewart, Bill Gottlieb, Dave Brubeck, Nat Hentoff, Herman Leonard, Cannonball Adderley, Ted Williams, Howard Mandel, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Katz, Greg Osby, Joe Lovano, Steve Coleman, DD Jackson and of course, WBGO's own Michael Bourne. That is just scratching the surface. As you can see, it's a long and proud tradition of jazz journalism.

Right about the time we found out that DownBeat and Paquito D'Rivera were going honored as a Champions of Jazz, we also found out that Paquito had won DownBeat's 74th Annual Readers Poll as Clarinetist of the Year. It's the third straight year. It was clear that we needed to put him on the cover. And I'm happy to say we have copies of that very issue here for everyone to take home. So pick one up if you haven't already. And congratulations, Paquito.

FROM KEVIN MAHER, PRESIDENT .. DownBeat has been in my family since 1950. I'm very proud to be the third generation to publish DownBeat and promote jazz to the world. I hope that many more generations of my family can do the same. We look at making magazines as a craft and an art form. It's our form of expression. And we think the future of DownBeat looks very bright. Who knows how many people be reading magazines 75 years from now (or even ten, or five), but  we're confident that DownBeat will be there … because we know jazz will be there.

 So, thank you to WBGO for this special honor. And congratulations on your 30th anniversary. In our book, a perfect day is sitting down in your favorite chair with a copy of DownBeat and WBGO on the radio. We're very proud that the world's greatest jazz magazine is receiving this honor tonight from the world's greatest jazz radio station. Thank you so much.

Streisand Returns to the Village Vanguard

Are you going?

48 years ago, she was the opening act for Miles Davis ( well, according to her website, she WANTED to open for Miles but she didn't get the gig).

Lorraine Gordon, the owner of the Vanguard-  has a deep philosophical connection to Streisand-they both share the same attitude about the causes they believe in and will stop at nothing for what they believe. Two dynamic women who have passions that transcend this business of music.

So, I approach Streisand's return to her acoustic, un- overproduced roots with optimism. Maybe she picked the Vanguard because she is finally ready to allow us to hear her instrument again. You can't hide anything at the Vanguard-  Lorraine won't let you.

She has a new album. Diana Krall is on piano. She makes the connection singing Bernstein's "Some Other Time", a song recorded to perfection by Tony Bennett and the Vanguard's house pianist of that other time, Bill Evans.  I reserve judgment until I hear it.

I am not going to her concert. I didn't even try to enter the lottery to get one of only 80 tickets. I will watch the video along with the gizillions of others next week, after she has had her chance to make sure that it is up to her standards.

Gee, when  we make our monthly broadcast from the Vanguard, you get to hear and watch the artist live. Warts and all. That's jazz.

Live at Joe's Pub - July 21st

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, July 21st. That's when I co-host a show with NPR Music's Bob Boilen from Joe's Pub. Come hear some cool music, and maybe watch live radio.

Cafe Society: The Wrong Place For The Right People

Cafe SocietyOne of the features airing on the WBGO Journal airing Friday night, 7:30 on July 3, 2009 is an interview with Terry Trilling-Josephson, the widow of Barney Josephson.  Drawing on interviews she did with her late husband, Terry has put together a new book about his life and Cafe Society, the groundbreaking Manhattan nightclub which broke down the barriers between the races in the 1930's, on stage and in the audience.  In addition to the interview which airs on the Journal, here's an hour-long special featuring the full interview with Terry and including musical selections from some of the jazz and blues artists who played Cafe Society or the club that marked Barney Josephson's return to the New York music scene, The Cookery.

Andrew Meyer

WBGO and SummerStage

Ledisi at SummerStage 6.28.09

On Sunday, June 28, WBGO's Josh Jackson hosted a great concert at Central Park SummerStage. The performance began with New Orleans pianist Jonathan Batiste, who paid homage to the late Michael Jackson in both song and attire. Bassist Esperanza Spalding followed with a set that ran the gamut of funk to soul to Ella inspired scat.

Closing the performance was rising star of soul and jazz, Ledisi (LED-ih-see as she pointed out several times from the stage and in cards handed out after the show). If the pronunciation of her name is a little confusing, there is no confusion what so ever about her voice or her command of the stage.

There are a great number of WBGO partner events this summer, many of them at no cost. Please visit the WBGO Events page for full details.

Purchase Jazz Endeavor on WBGO's award-winning series

WBGO received a My Source Community Impact Award for Engagement from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).  WBGO's educational outreach to youth is manifold.  The WBGO Kids Jazz Series accompanied with Jazzamatazz, a children’s newsletter, has been most successful.  Also, the best college bands in New York and New Jersey visit WBGO's studio to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month every April.  The SUNY Purchase Jazz Endeavor performed on the award-winning series Next Generation JAM. Listen to the live broadcast by clicking below.

WBGO Jazz Leadership Society Brunch with Simone!

Simone sings at Theater Square Grill during WBGO's JLS burnch 4/19/09

The crowd was enthusiastic and the performance fantastic on Sunday, April 19 when over 125 of WBGO’s most loyal and generous supporters turned out for the Singers Unlimited Brunch at NJPAC's Theater Square Grill. The annual event, which honors members of WBGO’s Jazz Leadership Society, featured a concert by Simone, the daughter of legendary singer Nina Simone. Backed up by her quintet of veteran jazz players, Simone sang for the delighted Jazz Leadership Society members in a concert broadcast worldwide through WBGO Jazz88 and via the internet on

Listen to the full broadcast here!

WBGO’s weekday morning host, Gary Walker emceed, filling in for WBGO’s Michael Bourne, currently on the mend from knee surgery. Gary led the audience in a chorus of “Hurry Back Michael” chants to cheer up Michael, WBGO’s long-time weekday afternoon announcer and host of the popular Singers Unlimited program. Between songs, Gary and Simone bantered about her career and growing up as Nina Simone’s daughter. Simone was wonderfully gracious and patiently autographed her CD Simone on Simone for dozens of grateful Jazz Leadership Society members in attendance.

Prior to the live broadcast, WBGO’s General Manager Cephas Bowles and Chairman of the Board of Directors Tim Porter welcomed the Jazz Leadership Society members and thanked them for their support.

Jazz Leadership Society (JLS) members receive a number of exciting benefits including insider access to the world of jazz, such as the annual Singers Unlimited Brunch. Basic JLS membership begins at the $1,000 annual gift level, with additional benefits available at the Silver ($2,500) and Gold ($5,000+) levels. For example, on March 23rd, Silver and Gold members were invited to an intimate evening with legendary jazz impresario George Wein.

For more information about how you can become a member of the Jazz Leadership Society, please contact Vincent Bochis at 973-624-8880, ext. 285 or at, or visit the JLS page on

30th anniv of Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Tuesday night, Dizzy's at Jazz @ Lincoln Center was packed, and pianists spottable in all directions. With one long break, the celebration ran past midnight. Marian listened from her dressing room as Bill Charlap opened with “While We’re Young,” a tip of the hat to her long friendship with composer Alec Wilder, who hosted the forerunner of Marian’s celebrated series, Piano Jazz. Bill made that melody sing. He’s with the Blue Note 7 at Birdland for the rest of the week. Be there.

Renee Rosnes joined Bill – they were married at Dizzy’s – for the first two-piano presentation of the night. Fun! Then Renee continued with “Chelsea Bridge” (Strayhorn) – love the harmony. Grady Tate sang two with pianist John Di Martino. JoAnne Brackeen stepped up to play her own composition, then Taylor Eigsti put her feet to the fire on a two-piano “Giant Steps.” I really enjoyed that duo, am sure it was their first time together. Marian played “Easy to Remember (and so hard to forget),” and she seemed in synch with every note. Karrin Allyson sang “Twilight Time” with Marian, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, just right.

The Kenny Barron and Mulgrew Miller two-piano closer was the apotheosis of the evening. <!--more-->It was the return of the Bradley’s aesthetic (long-running New York piano bar) but with the gloss and glass window-wall of Dizzy’s to class and clatter it up. Who’s playing what? I couldn’t separate the two. I came to New York in 1984 to hear jazz piano, and this in-command style is the top of the heap. Pure joy.

The era of the dominance of the Detroit pianists (Hank Jones, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Sir Roland Hanna) is over, but Kenny and Mulgrew are related to that style. I once asked Bill Charlap, what is it that the Detroit pianists were doing? I loved them as pianists and as people, but didn’t have the analysis. Bill’s answer was something like “extending Bud Powell,” and there is a lot to think about in that answer.

Set two featured Dena DeRose, who scatted and played “East of the Sun.” The woman next to me said “her scat matches her hair” (spiky), a good observation. Darryl Sherman played one for Dave McKenna and one for Blossom Dearie, two of Marian’s most “quirky” (as Darryl put it) guests. Cedar Walton played two Strayhorn pieces – so incisive. Cyrus Chestnut softened the tone (Cyrus later told me Betty Carter had taught him the value of contrast) with a quiet “Blame It on My Youth.”  Arturo O’Farrill played a composition for his wife, a pianist (“isn’t everyone?”), and then a ringing “Siboney” by Ernest Lecuona. The Cuban connection.

John Bunch started the day before 10am playing Benny Goodman small group music in the WBGO performance studio, and he was closing down Dizzy’s last night. John’s only a few years younger than Marian, so their choice of “Don’t Get Around Much Any More” was funny. Geri Allen played an extravagant and abstract beauty that contained kernels of “Just One of Those Things.” Randy Weston played a request from Marian – his waltz, “Little Niles.” He took it apart thoughtfully. By now it felt as though the pianists were playing straight from the heart. Instead of music, I was hearing souls. As MC Todd Barkan said, Marian is one of the best souls in jazz. Producer Shari Hutchinson and her assistant David Lyon booked a fantastic show, and Duke Markos recorded it for later editions of Piano Jazz, so stay with WBGO and you’ll hear it in the season to come. Thank you, Ms. McPartland. Congratulations.